Sunday, February 12, 2012

Back to Basics: How do I know I’m saved? Examine yourself!

Apostle Paul told the Corinthians to test themselves. Since Paul said it, we should do this as well. It is important to always be mindful of our faith, test it, examine ourselves, and see if we are straying. First, let's look at the verse to see what it says, then let's look at the context to see what was happening then and why Paul said it, and last let's see how to take this test, or make this examination. For some who make an examination, it will reveal a lack of salvation in the first place.

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5).

We know in our day at this point in the timeline that there is prophesied to be much deception in the church body. False doctrines will enter. Wolves in sheep's clothing. Man-made doctrines which is the same as saying doctrines of demons. People will not stand for sound doctrine, and will like to have their ears tickled instead. (Luke 21:8, 1 Tim 4:1, Acts 20:29, 2 Tim 4:3, Eph 4:14). But the church body was always plagued with falsity. It began almost immediately with the believers at Corinth.

The Corinthians had made a good start. They all converted at about the same time, when Paul came as missionary and preached the Gospel. But Corinth was a severely pagan place, and after Paul left, they had started to slide back to pagan ways, even allowing pagan practices into the church. They were acting selfishly and even gorging and drinking to drunkenness at the Lord's Supper, bringing shame to the church. (1 Corinthians 11:21).

Paul was urging them to look at themselves individually and see if they were selfless, pious, modest, and humble. But not to muse about it intellectually, but to go forth and live the Gospel selflessly, piously, modestly, humbly. He wanted them to conduct themselves according to the standards to which a mature Christian should behave. It is walking with the Lord and being active in our faith daily that brings us strength and as we grow stronger in Him (the Holy Spirit regenerates us more and more) then when trials come, we can withstand.

As it stood then, Paul knew that when the trials would come, and then when the persecution came, the Corinthians would not be able to withstand. In 1 Corinthians 3:2 he complained then about them still not being able to have meat, and still being babes in Christ and on milk. He is trying to wean them so they could stand on their own two feet, strong and brave, ready to withstand satan's buffeting, of which Paul knew only too well.

So it is well with us if we examine ourselves from time to time to see if we are growing, or even if we are in the faith at all.

How do we know if we are saved, if we pass or if we "fail the test"? First, ask yourselves,

Am I sensitive to sin? My own and others' sin, such as on television or movies? A growing Christian will look back at the early days of their conversion and see the sins they tolerated back then are no longer tolerable. Swearing bothers you. Entertainment depicting adultery piques your anger. Blasphemy hurts your ears.  Obviously demonic novels and movies will no longer appeal. If they still appeal, then examine yourself further to see if you pass the test. A growing Christian grows away from sin and when we do sin, it breaks our heart.

Here is a Paul Washer sermon that examines sensitivity to sin in the saved or unsaved Christian. Hunker down for the long haul because it is an hour and 13 minutes. Audio only. But if you have gotten this far, finding the blog, reading this essay, getting down to this point, you need to hear him preach on sin. Sin is the foundational differential between being saved and unsaved. Do you recognize you are a sinner, and have you repented? If repented, are you sensitive to the effect sin has on your life and what a blight it is on Jesus' name?

Secondly, does your faith grow stronger through trials and not weaker? In this essay by John MacArthur, he answers the question about why it is bad to appeal to people's emotions at an altar call. He said that the church is filled with tares, flooded with them. They have no firm root (Mark 4:17) so when a strong wind comes they are uprooted and blow away. If your faith is firm, nothing can prevail against it because the root is Jesus. The essay is not long and it will help understand how your response through trials and even persecution can illustrate if we are passing or failing the test. If trials make you hate God and you stop going to church and doing good works, you are failing the test. If trials make you love Him all the more, then you are passing the test.

Does your walk bear fruit? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says if anyone is saved, he is a new creation. As a new creation, one made in His image, we want to glorify Him and do things that expand His kingdom. Those things are works. Matthew 7:16 says people will be known by their fruits. An apple tree isn't named because of distinctive bark or a certain shaped leaf. It is named an apple tree because it bears apples. It is the apples that are useful. When the Spirit prompts us to do a work, we do it. Doing this work in the Spirit's strength bears fruit. Ephesians 2:10 says we are created in order to do good works, which He has prepared for us beforehand. Being holy, growing in righteousness, doing things in His name for His name is showing the world that the Light is in us. Anyone who is not doing good works for His name is likely not saved. James 2:17 says faith by itself without works, is dead. Clarke's Commentary explains, "The faith that does not produce works of charity and mercy is without the living principle which animates all true faith, that is, love to God and love to man." Here is a Charles Spurgeon devotional that explains bearing fruit.

So there are three quick but not exclusive criteria for examining yourself to see if you pass the test: sensitivity to sin, strength through trials, and bearing fruit of good works.

In the verse Paul warns us not to fail the test. You might be thinking, 'big deal. I've gotten a F on a test before and just made it up later. Or went to summer school..." How big of a deal is it if you fail the faith test? VERY BIG. Here is what happens:

"“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7:21-23).

In verse 22 you see the surprised cry of those who had deceived themselves. They had done works, but had not had faith. They had not done the will of our Father who is in heaven. The will of the Father is to believe on the One He has sent. (John 6:29, 6:40). But many people in churches are busy, busy doing this and doing that and feeling pretty spiritual about it, too. They deceived themselves that it counted for something. None of it counted. All that they did had looked like spiritual work, but it was not. Why? It was absent a saving faith. They never knew Jesus.

The penalty or failing the faith test is not an F, it is being cast away for all eternity. THAT is the penalty for failing the test. You must do the will of the Father, which is to believe. Do you believe? Not sure? Here is a short essay on "How to detect a false conversion" from GotQuestions.org.

It's hard. The Christian life is hard. It goes against our nature to be good, loving, humble...Life doles out hard knocks and our faith is tested and then it is tested again. It is a struggle. Paul said it was and it is. But it is so worth it! Life on this earth is temporary. It is a temporary location, and heaven, soon New Jerusalem, will be our home forever. Examine yourself, live for the faith He died to give us! And then, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." (Revelation 21:7). Examine yourself today. Don't wait.

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing this, it's so important.

    I still continually struggle with certain habits that are sins but I do feel convicted about them. I know if I try hard enough to ignore the conviction, I sort of can do them without feeling too bad. I know it sounds awful but I just want to be honest. These times that I sort of ignore God for a prolonged period and do my own thing, I'm sort of a big mess and end up feeling not myself, like I'm disconnected and after falling apart, end up asking God for forgiveness and everything makes sense again. But it's like the cycle begins again and much later, I'm back there again.

    I can say I learn more about God and my faith in Him through every trial but I feel like my flesh is my biggest enemy and that although I have The Holy Spirit in me, I spend more time walking in the flesh than in the Spirit. I cried out to God about it today because it was a big realization I had recently.

    The Christian life is extremely hard but I can never completely turn my back on Christ. Ever. That's one of the main reasons I believe I'm saved but it might not be enough. I just want to have victory over my flesh...

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  2. Hi Anonymous,

    The battle is constant, but the victory will be final when we are glorified. Meanshilw, we struggle on...

    Galatians 5:17,

    "For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want."

    1 Peter 2:11, advises "Living Godly Lives in a Pagan Society"

    "Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul."

    your flesh IS your biggest enemy and satan knows that. I'm glad you had the realization recently. Keep appealing to the Spirit and to Jesus. He will help you :)

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  3. Hi Anonymous,

    I've also strugged with the flesh (the beachhead to sin) for a good few years now (as I believe that most men do), and knew at every turn that my carnal desires were totally wrong.

    Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was searching for answers all over the many sites that have articles on this and settled on a fantastic site by an American preacher & bible teacher called John McArthur (http://www.gty.org/) who is possibly the best bible teacher I have found anywhere. He tells it straight from the Word; just as it should be.

    I downloaded many sermons from his website, including two called Abstaining from Sexual Sin (parts 1&2). They are absolutely fantastic.. the best I've heard. I listen to then every day on my drive to work.

    The end result is that I'v been delivered from these horrible carnal desires, learned to love my wife dearly (who is the best thing that ever happened to me) and now can share this testimony with many others like you to help you know that Satan has no hold over you if you are a true bible-loving believer and truly desire to become obedient to God and his Word.

    The key here is this: you have to really "want" to obey the Word of God in your life. If this is your situation, then you will be delivered as I was. It will not happen instantly as it is the Holy Spirit working in you that will transform you.

    Listen to these sermons many times over until you have totally understood them and really desire to be obedient and live God's way and I believe that you will be delivered.

    God bless you.
    A bible believing Christian from a little town near London.

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  4. Thank you so much for this article. I have fooled myself by thinking that partaking in watching Vampire movies and series is harmless because of my love for the Lord. In this reading this article, i feel convicted and i will no longer watch/read such things. I am trying everyday to clean up and sort the bad out of my soul. I am kind of a new christian. I grew up knowing the word but not living it. My amazing husband has taught me so much. My faith is unwavering. Through each test not only does my faith grow stronger but so does our marriage. We are searching for a good church home. How will i know when i find it?

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    1. Hi Ann,

      Praise the Lord He is working wondrously in your life. He makes us new creations (2 Cor 5:17), He transforms us (Phil 3:21), and He transforms us by the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2). Keep praying, staying in the world and submitting to Him and He will continue to grow you! And as He grows you, the things you used to enjoy or participate in will become impure to your heart and you will go away from them, as in the vampire stuff. It is evidence of His transformation of you into a new creature! He is Good.

      Here are some resources to look at when searching for a new church. I included several different ministries (I trust) so you'd get a variety of perspectives

      What factors should one consider when trying to find a good local church?
      http://www.gotquestions.org/find-local-church.html

      Looking For A Church Home?
      http://biblicalspirituality.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Looking-For-A-Church-Home.pdf

      What things should we look for in a church?
      http://carm.org/look-for-in-a-church

      The above are short, this one is a sermon,

      Fundamental Priorities of a Good Church
      http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/91-4/fundamental-priorities-of-a-good-church

      And if the going gets tough to find a good church, here is a short warning (using scriptures) against making media your church:
      http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA128/im-having-a-hard-time-finding-a-good-church-in-my-area-is-it-okay-to-make-media-ministries-my-church

      Welcome to the family, dear sister, and I pray you and your husband continue on your journey into purity and faith!

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  5. John Calvin emphatically warned against looking to ourselves, that is, to our works or the fruit of the Spirit, for certainty of our salvation. He taught that we should look to Christ as the objective basis for assurance. To look to ourselves produces doubt and detracts from the saving work of Christ. He rejected the exhortation to self-examination as a dangerous dogma.(Charles Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of Assurance, Handsel, Edinburg, 1985, p. 28.)

    The basis for knowing that I am a Christian is not what I do, but what God’s Word says about what Christ has done and continues to do for those who have believed (John 1:12; 1 John 5:13). I know I belong to Christ because I have believed in Jesus Christ as my only Savior and Redeemer from eternal destruction. It’s not the evidences of my life that are my basis for knowing that. It’s the Word of God. God said it. That settles it.

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    1. Yes. Salvation is an act of sovereign grace and grace alone. We agree 1000% on that.

      However, salvation WILL yield good works. "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? "(James 2:14-16). Works are one of the tests to see if one is saved. Why? Faith without works is dead.

      God also said in John 15:1-17 the believer’s relationship with Christ to that of branches to a vine. A branch that is truly connected to the vine will bear fruit. Those who have true faith will also have works. Philippians 1:9-11.
      You can find out more about why faith without works is dead, here
      http://www.compellingtruth.org/faith-without-works-dead.html

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    2. I think the fruits being referenced are the fruits of the Spirit. "Love, joy, peace, long suffering... etc. We can become extremely legalistic in our approach to what is sin and what is not. I believe the Holy Spirit will reveal to us His displeasures.

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  6. Over the years, I have come to realize lyrics in certain songs I used to like have bothered me, so I adjusted my listening habits a tad to avoid those types of songs.

    I haven't changed the taste in music from my youth - I just removed certain types of songs from my ears.

    I also realize that when I do sin, I'm fully aware of it, and it does bother me. If it bothers me, then it must really bother God. I suppose if I wasn't saved, then sin wouldn't bother me.

    I do have habitual sins that I find hard to break free from, but I make sure to always ask for forgiveness, and to tell the Lord that I'm truly sorry that I'm so weak in my body.

    Lately, I want to read more Scripture and read articles on Christian websites than I ever have done before. I was never a solid reader of anything, but God is bringing me closer to Him by this sudden interest.

    I grew up glued to the TV, but now I barely watch TV. I still love my old sitcoms, but that's about the extent of my TV watching as over the recent years, TV has become one horrible experience. I detest commercials on the TV, radio, or internet.

    So, as you can see, some things have changed in my life, which is God's will.


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  7. No doubt this is a good point. The factor to avoid emotional conviction is deceptive. Satan can not create facts to defend his goal but that is what key to true conversion. Your faith is rested on the record of facts which sho that Jesus is God and our redeemer. Faith in his acts are not destructive or removable by Satan. Remember that Satan can distort facts to mislead you as he did with Adam and Eve (read in 2nd and 3rd Genesis God's command concerning the Tree and what REALLY happened)plus look at what John recorded in he letters about this fact.

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  8. Many Christians have said the following to themselves during a very difficult period in their life: “Am I really saved?” Here are the thought processes on this issue for an Evangelical and a Lutheran:

    The Evangelical's Assurance of Salvation:

    1. At age ___ I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. At that moment I asked Jesus to come into my heart to be my Lord and Savior and to forgive me of my sins.

    2. But since I am currently questioning my salvation, maybe I didn't "do it" correctly. Maybe I didn't fully understand what I was doing. Maybe I didn't fully repent. Maybe I didn't really have complete faith. Maybe I did it just because my friends were doing it. Maybe...

    3. I don't know...maybe I should "do it" again, just to be 100% sure.

    The Lutheran's Assurance of Salvation:

    1. Have I been baptized into the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, thereby receiving God's promise of the forgiveness of my sins, salvation of my soul, faith, and eternal life?
    Answer: Yes.

    2. Have I outright rejected Christ as my Lord and Savior?
    Answer: No.

    3. Am I living a life of ongoing sin in willful disobedience and defiance of my Lord?
    Answer: No.
    Therefore, I know I am saved!

    When your assurance of salvation is based on what GOD did and not what you did, it makes all the difference in the world!

    http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/10/salvation-is-much-simpler-than.html

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